Backup of Last Resort
Backup of Last Resort
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Many Terragen sophonts have asked themselves a philosophical question since the dawn of humanity, which fossil evidence suggests happened at about 250,000 BT. That question is "Does the essence of a sophont survive in some form after death?" Answers to that question have been part of the basis of most religions. The question is especially often asked by human-derived bionts.

Most religions originating in pre-space times agree that the answer is that some incorporeal essence remains and goes to some nonphysical realm. The same applies to some of the newer religions. (Early versions of this theory said that the essence was put into a new body in some inaccessible part of the real universe such as the sky or an island only the dead could find.) Usually, some entity with powers greater than human (in many cases the power is said to be infinite) is said to perform the transfer.

The availability of various methods of mind uploading has confused this issue. Most sophonts in the Current Era have one or more backups, or at least have the option of creating them. Depending on their beliefs, most sophonts are effectively immortal if they want to be. Because of this, the question of the ultimate destination of one's mind structure (often called a soul) has become less important to most.

However, over a sufficiently long time, any event or combination of events, no matter how unlikely, is likely to occur. For example, a sufficiently cautious sophont might have numerous backups, running on different media and using various operating systems, scattered over a large portion of the Terragen Sphere. Nevertheless, sooner or later, all the backups might fail, whether due to some unlikely combination of accidents, by malice, or by some threat not considered by the strategy. As a result, the sophont will be in the same position as someone from 10,000 BT who had no backups at all.

Examples of such unlikely threats would be ones that involve all or some large part of the Universe. They might be due to a false vacuum collapse, interference by an entity of a toposophic level greater than S6, or by entities existing in such a different part of the toposophic landscape that they are unrecognizable. Such events might be hostile actions or might be entirely accidental. Another possibility would be destruction caused by some, perhaps primordial, entity from outside the Universe altogether who might itself be either hostile or careless. In any of these cases, or others no doubt imaginable only by transapients, all the backups might fail at once. In any event, the death of the Universe itself will certainly remove all backups, whatever form that death takes.

These considerations have in recent centuries brought forth a tenet of theology which now has become part of many religions. This is the idea that an entity of supernatural intelligence and power greater than any known sophont, and who has many names in even more languages, will make a backup of them when all the other backups fail: the Backup of Last Resort.

Most of the religions sharing this idea agree that the price of the final backup is that, except in very rare instances indeed, the backup is held somewhere where it is impossible for the sophont to return to the universe that contains the Terragen Sphere and all else known. As might be expected in theological matters, there are many arguments about whether the backup appears in another universe -- somewhere in the bulk -- or in a realm with no conventional physical existence whatsoever: a fully supernatural realm. This question, of course, never can be answered rationally by someone still in the Terragen universe. However, it is notable that the older the roots of a religion the more likely it is that the religion will hold to the latter view.

False Vacuum Collapse

This theoretical disaster is a consequence of the idea, common in the early centuries AT, that the entire universe is in a metastable excited state (with respect to some universal field such as the Higgs field) rather than the ground state. If true, this excited state could collapse into the ground state at any time for any reason (probably involving very high energy events) or none. This collapse would spread from the initial point at the speed of light, leaving a universe behind very different from the current one (different particle masses and maybe even a different set of forces) which would be completely hostile to Terragen life.

This theory has still not been disproved, although it is possible that the greater archai have conducted basement-universe experiments to test it. If there have been any results of such experiments, the AI Gods are not telling modosophonts.
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Text by Ian Campbell
Initially published on 26 January 2018.